Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) 1963 Year In Review

Image taken from Tales of Suspense #39

How Many Issues?

Ten issues, Tales of Suspense #39-48, published monthly.

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (#40-41, 43), Steve Ditko (#47-48)

Scripter: Larry Lieber (#39), Robert Bernstein (#40-46), Stan Lee (#47-48)

Penciller: Don Heck (#39, 42, 44-46), Jack Kirby (#40-41, 43), Steve Ditko (#47-48)

Inker: Don Heck (#39-47), Steve Ditko (#48)

Was It Good?

For the most part, no. Tony Stark’s character was boring and difficult to identify with. Iron Man’s opponents tended to be unimpressive and dull. I genuinely disliked the choice to make Iron Man a famous hero off-panel; if he’s going to get famous, that’s a story that should be told in this comic, not as part of a recap about what Iron Man has been doing between issues.

To be fair, the series was improving throughout the year. The last four issues were against super villains, which was an improvement on the low-rent Communist threats and sci-fi one-off characters that he battled in earlier issues.

The addition of Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan definitely improved this title. I also liked that the concept of Iron Man’s armor changing was introduced early on. Beyond those tiny highlights, though, this was a dull book.

What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?

It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed and which were quietly dropped.

  • In 1963, Iron Man battled: an alien-made robot, Crimson Dynamo, Doctor Strange (no, not that one), Jack Frost, Kala, King Hatap, Melter, Mr. Doll, Red Barbarian, and Wong-Chu.
  • Tony Stark must wear his Iron Man chest plate to keep his heart beating. This chest plate ran low on power often (five times in ten issues!), risking Tony’s life, until he finally got a clue and improved his chest plate/armor.
  • The first change Iron Man made to his armor was to paint it gold. He did this because women and children were frightened of his armor, and paint apparently solved that problem.
  • Iron Man’s armor does not have many built-in gadgets. He has to swap out parts to upgrade his armor in the field.
  • Iron Man has become, off-panel, a national hero that battles Communists and gangsters, in addition to helping with urgent catastrophes. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is an international playboy, a scientific innovator, and weapons manufacturer.
  • Iron Man’s armor isn’t as rigid as the name would imply. He is able to fold most of it like clothing.
  • The Actor learns that Tony Stark is Iron Man…and is killed (by another villain) before he can tell anyone. Tony definitely set the Actor up to be killed, even though he was unaware that the villain had discovered his secret identity. What a coincidence!
  • The Crimson Dynamo agrees to stop being a villain, and is rewarded with a job at Stark Industries.
  • Tony Stark’s factories are targeted by two different villains in two consecutive stories.
  • By my count, there have been three distinct Iron Man armors so far: the original armor (which was later painted gold), the aluminum armor (that looked exactly like the original armor), and the first red-and-gold armor.
  • Pepper Potts has an unrequited crush on Tony, and Happy Hogan has an unrequited crush on Pepper.

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